Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Atto hovers at the end of the bar furthest from the dance floor. Under the harsh lights his skin seems translucent even to him. The revelers around him tipping bottles back and clinking glasses look right through him. He knows a kind of invisibility now he’s never felt so completely before.
The music slips between songs without apparent effort; the DJ has phase shifted something new so that the thumping of the bass tracks line up perfectly, one giving way to the other without missing a beat.
While he watches, Edie glides out from a crowd of dancers, hips swaying, arms pumping and wearing a smile that splits the room in two.
For a moment Atto loses his composure, hands shaking and head reeling he worries that his legs may not support him. He looks for something to lean against and realizes the futility of that. Instead he counts the bottles on the back bar until his anxiety passes.
On the dance floor Edie draws a crowd, young men with bulging muscles and unquestionable intent cycle in and out of her personal space, each trying to outdo the last in some form of tribal mating ritual.
She used to look at him like that, once.
Atto wasn’t bulging muscles and animal dance moves, he was stoic and intelligent, a pragmatist. He was project lead at his laboratory where people trusted him to create things no one imagined possible, trusted him with secrets no one else could know. Atto was known as the ‘Science Spook’, he knew more and was seen less than anyone else in the business. Why Edie had loved him he didn’t know, but she had always danced like that with him, for him. That was then.
Trembling, he stepped toward the lights, towards Edie. The bass rumbled in his chest, and he pictured for a moment the tissue samples they had blown apart with low frequency noise not entirely unlike these tones. A waitress passed by with a test tube rack filled with shooters, their bright colours fluorescing in the ultra violet lights and he reflexively flinched away.
Edie gyrated, sweat rolling off her body and soaking through her clothes. Her eyes almost met Atto’s as she pushed a lock of wet hair back behind her ear, only to shake it free again as she turned.
Atto squeezed his eyes shut, trying hopelessly to shut out the sights in the bar. The music assailed him from all sides, pounding away at his senses until he was sure the pain of it had reached his limit.
“Hey baby, come dance with me.” Her voice cut through the haze like a velvet blade, and for one incredible moment she was looking right at him. He stepped forward, reached out his hands towards her. For an instant he thought everything could be alright again.
The sensation of the younger man passing through him wasn’t nearly as gut wrenching as was watching him take Edie’s hand and slide back onto the dance floor, stealing his Edie right from his grasp.
Edie had looked right at Atto, looked right into his eyes but where there should have been recognition there was nothing. In an instant she was gone.
Atto stumbled towards the door, passing through crowds of people like damp breezes without them even knowing. The door came and went and he found himself out on the road, street lamps casting long shadows in the late night gloom, shadows of everything but him.
He imagined her smell on him, the taste of the sweat from her skin on his lips.
As a scientist he’d done what no one imagined he could do, shifted himself just enough to see but not be seen, neither touch nor be touched.
As a spy he was without equal, he could observe anything, be anywhere.
Except with her.
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